Self-driving delivery company quietly expands testing to include downtown Phoenix

By: - November 14, 2019 1:57 pm

A Nuro Prius in Downtown Phoenix. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Self-driving car company Nuro, which aims to create a fleet of small unmanned cars that deliver food and goods, has quietly expanded its testing operations in the metro Phoenix area, Arizona Mirror has learned. 

The company had previously been primarily testing in Scottsdale, but confirmed to the Mirror that it has expanded to other parts of “Greater Phoenix” in “the last few weeks,” according to Emma Esrock of LaunchSquad, a public relations firm hired by Nuro. 

In late 2018, Nuro began conducting fully autonomous deliveries of groceries as part of a partnership with Fry’s in Scottsdale. 

The program officially ended in March of this year, Esrock said. 

However, she said testing of Nuro vehicles continued in Scottsdale, and now that testing has spread to parts of Phoenix, including downtown.

When asked if the expansion into downtown Phoenix signaled that the company plans to test its delivery platform in other urban city settings in the Valley, Esrock said she could not share any additional details. 

“[W]e are continually testing and mapping various areas in our three states of operation (California, Texas, and Arizona) regardless of whether we have an active delivery service,” Esrock said. “Indeed, our test/mapping area in Arizona has expanded recently and now includes portions of Phoenix, as well as a larger area in Scottsdale.”

The Phoenix Police Department is aware that Nuro is testing on Phoenix streets, Det. Luis Samudio said. 

Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Ryan Harding said Nuro is in compliance with Gov. Doug Ducey’s March 2018 Executive Order, which set out the requirements for testing autonomous vehicles in the state. 

The company received nearly $1 billion in investment from SoftBank in February, a company that has invested billions in similar tech companies with varying results.

Nuro is one of many companies testing autonomous vehicles in the state. Waymo has been testing vehicles in the East Valley, as have both GM and Intel. 

This year, self-driving trucking company TuSimple announced a partnership with UPS to deliver packages from Phoenix to Tucson. Now the trucks are making a 1,000 journey from Phoenix to Dallas as part of that same partnership

Nuro’s expansion comes as the National Traffic Safety Board is preparing to give its final report in Washington D.C. next week on the death of Elaine Herzberg, who was killed by one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles in Tempe last year. 

A new report released by the NTSB last week fell short of casting blame, but revealed that sensors on the car were turned off and were unable to properly identify Herzberg prior to the fatal collision.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.